Sport Soccer

Monday 18 December 2017

Wantaway Bhoys may never get it better – Lennon

Celtic manager Neil Lennon waves to photographers as he arrives for a team training session, ahead of the Champions League soccer match against Juventus
Celtic manager Neil Lennon waves to photographers as he arrives for a team training session, ahead of the Champions League soccer match against Juventus

Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon does not "see any reason" why he would leave Celtic.

In the wake of the Hoops' Champions League last-16 exit on Wednesday night at the hands of Juventus in Turin, the prospect of the Lurgan man attracting interest from other clubs was acknowledged by chief executive Peter Lawwell.

Hoops 'keeper Fraser Forster said he "could definitely see it happening."

However, ahead of today's SPL clash at Ross County, the Parkhead boss said: "It (speculation) makes no difference to me.

"I am the manager of Celtic and I am one of the privileged few who have been lucky enough to do this job. I enjoy it, I love what I do.

"I can't stop speculation about players or myself but at this current period I am Celtic manager and I don't see any reason for that to change in the future. Does it flatter you? It just means that you might be doing a decent job along the way.

"But why are we talking about me leaving Celtic all of a sudden? I am only three years into the job. I am doing my job, I haven't done a job.

"I want to improve and take the club forward. We have made huge strides. It is going to be difficult to replicate it next season but that is the challenge that lies ahead."

The former Celtic skipper has warned his players that they, and indeed he, might not "get it better than this" if they leave the Scottish champions, who are on their way to retaining their SPL title and have a Scottish Cup semi-final against Dundee United next month.

"You guys (media) create the speculation," he said. "The minute we get a player in who does well, it's as if you can't wait for him to go somewhere else. It's as if this is just a passing phase in their career.

"I have told the players this before: they may not get it better than this. They may not get to play at such a big club, to play in the Champions League and to have the chance to win trophies year-in, year-out.

"The only thing that hampers us is that we are in a difficult financial climate. We can't compete with smaller clubs elsewhere who get more money from TV revenue, and we understand that.

"But I don't want to stop players' progress, I want them to go and succeed."

Lennon looked back fondly on "so many" highlights in this season's Champions League campaign. He said: "Qualification (for the group stages) against Helsingborg was fantastic.

"In the first game we had to weather a 15-20 minute spell where it could have gone belly up.

"The win against Spartak in Moscow was monumental for everyone and then the two titanic games against Barcelona...

"It was like sitting ringside watching a heavyweight world title fight and it going 15 rounds. It was magical."

Irish Independent

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